Kobe Bryant‘s sisters are breaking their silence following their brother’s sudden passing — in which the athlete, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other victims died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.
Sharia Washington and Shaya Tabb released their first public statement since the fatal incident on Friday, saying they are “in grieving” along with Bryant’s widow Vanessa, 37, and his daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, over the loss of their sibling and niece.
“On behalf of our family, we join Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri in grieving the loss of Kobe and Gianna in such a tragic accident,” they told iOne Digital in a statement. “We are devastated by the loss of our brother, son, our niece and granddaughter, and our hearts go out to all the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday.”
“Our lives are forever changed,” the sisters added, before thanking the public for their “prayers, the numerous calls, texts, emails and cards.”
Bryant, 41, and Gianna were reportedly on their way to a youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks with parents and players from the Mamba Sports Academy girls’ team when their helicopter crashed amid foggy conditions on a hill in Calabasas. The two died alongside pilot Ara Zobayan, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli.
The family statement follows an emotional message Vanessa had shared on Instagram on Wednesday, in which she told fans she’s “devastated” over the loss of her “adoring” husband and their “beautiful, sweet” daughter Gianna.
“My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers,” she wrote.
“We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” Vanessa added.
“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now,” she continued. “I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”
Vanessa shared that while she is not sure how to recover from their tragic and sudden deaths, she and her family are going to “keep pushing.”
“I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way,” she said.
“Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.”
In her statement, Vanessa also announced that the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up a charity for the seven other victims of the helicopter crash.
“To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy,” she wrote. “To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org.”
“Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️,” Vanessa concluded.